Remove Your Sandals

So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:4-5)

Remove Your Sandals

In certain cultures of the eastern world, the custom of removing shoes or sandals before entering a home or place of worship is common. For some, this is because of the dirt that accumulates on footwear that would be tracked into the house, insulting the hosts and going against the norms of culture. In many places, it is a sign of respect in the presence of someone considered divine. The customs vary from place to place, with regulations determined by the local culture. Moses was a shepherd accustomed to wearing sandals as he tended the sheep. On one occasion, the eighty-year-old former Egyptian prince was tending the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law. Moses led the flock to the back of the desert and came to mount Horeb. As he approached, he saw a curious thing when a bush was burning with fire but was not consumed. As he drew near, the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame. Intrigued, Moses turned aside to see the burning bush. When God saw that Moses turned aside to look, the Lord spoke to Moses and told him not to draw near and for him to remove his sandals. This frightened Moses, and he hid his face.

There was nothing special about the ground Moses stood upon, but what made it holy was the presence of the Lord. God told him the ground was holy ground and he must remove his sandals. While the text does not say, Moses certainly obeyed the command of the Lord. Moses stood before the Lord barefoot. The symbolism was clear to Moses as he talked with God. He understood coming before the Creator of the world was an object of devotion by the creation. God must not be considered a good friend or a person of equality with men. Removing footwear was often done before the presence of great nobility to show honor and respect. How much more honor and respect to show the Lord God Almighty.

When Joshua was preparing to go against the city of Jericho, the Commander of the army of the Lord came to the son of Nun, demanding he remove his sandals. Joshua was told the ground was holy ground. Joshua did so. Moses was chosen to deliver the Hebrews from their Egyptian bondage, and Joshua was preparing for the conquering of the promised land. In both stories, the ground was sanctified by the presence of the Lord as a great plan was about to be unfolded. The communion of God and man was to be joined as one in a holy convocation. Worship is where God and man come together to deliver the soul from the bondage of sin, looking forward to the final deliverance of the soul to the eternal land of promise.

There is a symbol of the removal of that which defiles in the act of worship. Worship does not require the removal of footwear, but it does require the removal of those things that defile. In a symbolic measure, coming to the place of eternal communion begins by removing the sandals of life. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must come to Him in spirit and truth unshackled by the affairs and distractions of the world. One of the great needs of the human spirit is to recognize the holiness of coming in the presence of the Almighty. It is easy to develop a casual attitude, even a total disregard for the holy importance of worship. The early church assembled on the first day of the week to worship, and that pattern must be followed for the church today. When the saints gather to sing, worship, and commune in the death of Jesus Christ, God must be considered holy.

Worship on the first day of the week is considered an option that can be disregarded. Excuses abound about why saints will not obey the will of God to assemble. If they stood before the burning bush, they would offer the same reasons for not removing their sandals. The time of worship can become a weariness as it was in the days of Malachi, where the people worshiped the Lord with both sandals on (in a figure of speech). God is holy, demanding His people know they are standing on holy ground when they worship. Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron, were struck down for treating the Lord with disrespect. It would be considered an act of disrespect to enter the home of some cultures in the world with shoes on; how much more to dishonor God by the worldly defilements that we bring to worship.

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